I’ve been awful at getting to questions lately. I keep good questions in a file and always mean to get to them, but sometimes (most of the time) life just doesn’t work according to my plan! Here’s a good question let’s get to today:
What do you do, or think one should do, if your child really disappoints you or disobeys you? I mean, do you ever find yourself feeling upset and at wits end? And if so, what helps you to get through that time and come out on top? How do you find a balance between being a parent to your child and having good relationships with them, while not becoming ‘the best friend’ or ‘correction officer’? Any advice you can grant me is appreciated, thanks!
This is a great question…and a multi-faceted one. Here are my thoughts:
What I do when I’m disappointed or when kids disobey and what I think one should do are often quite different, much to my chagrin! I have inherited many great things from my dad, but one I wish I could wrangle myself out of is the gift of the “guilt trip.” Ha! Yes, my kids wish I wasn’t so good at that one too! But we’ve gotten to the point where they remind me that the guilt trip is coming out, and I’m getting better at holding those things at bay.
It’s a difficult balance because kids need to know we are disappointed. The key, in general, is helping them turn behavior around in a more positive way rather than just shaking our heads. Although that does serve a purpose I must say! There have been plenty of times my teenager self was put in my place after a good dad-guilt-trip. I remember coming home after curfew one time to find him sitting in the dark on the little green couch near our entry, a very solemn expression on his face that was wagging from one side to the other, I learned a lesson from that! And the time he happened to drive past my high school right at the exact time a couple guy friends of mine were having fun with the family van I had driven to school that day. One was driving, one was “surfing” on the roof (SO dumb but of course, teenagers don’t think too well…), I think I must have been in that van along with some other friends…I vaguely remember the sliding door being propped open and my dad driving up alongside us. He didn’t say anything…just reached out his hand with that same very ominous expression on his face and said, “Keys.” When we handed them over, shaking in our boots, he drove off without a word. I can’t remember how I got home that day, or whether there was a lecture, but I sure remember that was a really dumb thing we did and I never wanted to see that expression from my dad again.
So, let’s backtrack a little, maybe the guilt trip IS the way to go! In all seriousness though, I think the thing that I just realized in writing those two most memorable ones is that there is power in no words sometimes. Sometimes no amount of yelling and frustration and slamming doors or pounding on the steering wheel (yes, I’ve done them all) is as powerful as staying calm, letting that child know you expect more of them, and giving it some time.
This is different in some ways with younger children than it is for teenagers, but either way, I think communication is key as an offensive. Let kids know what’s expected, set out rules and boundaries, and let kids help you think of natural consequences that you follow through with. That consistency is so important!
So, needless to say, yes, I do find myself feeling upset and at wit’s end. (I’ve written a few posts about my travels to “Wit’s End” over HERE and HERE.) I think the best remedy is TIME. Take a minute to calm yourself, let your children have space to calm themselves, and then discuss and communicate what went wrong. I love the power of a parent apologizing to their child…I’ve sure had to do that over and over again. And I think because of that, my kids are getting good at their own apologies. We all make mistakes, and we’re all in this together.
And I think that (the willingness to apologize and discuss) is what helps find the balance between being a friend and a “correction officer”…getting in the trenches with them and showing your vulnerabilities right along with them. It is a difficult balance to work with, but it’s worth it a million times over because they go from this:
In the blink of an eye. And it’s pretty fun to be able to count them as some of your favorite friends.
These are just a few initial thoughts I wrote early this morning when I couldn’t sleep (man, I’m having trouble sleeping these days!) I’m sure the mother who asked the question would love other input from out there in the blog world so please join in if you have some things to add!